Spring Cinema Screenings….

Disorder–  I checked out this cool new French film called Disorder(2015) at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo on the weekend.

It’s a new offering from director Alice Winocour (Augustine), that stars Matthias Schoenaerts as Vincent, an ex-soldier picking up some work doing security at a posh Riviera mansion. When the wealthy owner leaves on an out of town business trip, he hires Vincent to guard his wife Jesse (Diane Kruger) and son.

This plot twist could have led the film into the trashy/kitschy territory of The Bodyguard, but in the hands of Winocour it is a study on the effects of war on a persons psyche, and the difficulties of adapting to civilized society.

Vincent struggles to contain and live with the PTSD symptoms left from tours of duty in the Middle East, and hopes to be sent back to combat duty. As he confronts the challenges of guarding the family and his growing attachment to Jesse, his weekend begins to resemble the far away battlefields he is accustomed too.

The disorientation Vincent feels from his medical condition make it difficult for him to distinguish between real and imaginary dangers ;which is a really nice touch in this film. Combined with the outstanding performances from the lead actors, a cool cinematic look,and the unsettling and moody electronic music score from Gessaffelstein ; this a flick worth checking out.

In the end we  are left to wonder if the ferocity Vincent unleashes to protect the ones he has grown to care about; is also a a force that prevents him from relizing a new life for himself.



Who Am I? No System Is Safe– Last week I took the train into Toronto for a screening at the TIFF Lightbox. They were showing a recent German cyber-thriller,as part of a programme of films put together by the Goethe Institute Toronto.

The film was directed by Baran bo Odar and features  rising star Tom Schilling as Benjamin, “a socially awkward nobody who leaps to fame and recognition in the world of underground hacking and, with new-found friends, undertakes a spree of pranks and online criminal acts that have violent and, ultimately, deadly consequences.”

The film relies on the first person narration of Benjamin to tie the intricate plot together,and owes a huge debt to The Usual Suspects.The plot revolves arounda group of  computer/tech nerds who  join forces to hack into corporate and government facilities; and as a result  gain for themselves a cult following.

As the film progresses the fun of the hacking takes on a more serious and dangerous element; and the tensions between the group members reaches the breaking point.

Detection from the authorities is only a matter of time,but can they apprehend the hackers before their  tech world competitors put them in the morgue?

The ending of the film is very well constructed and leaves the viewer wondering what version of events to believe in, and what are the depths of the psychological disturbances of our main character…

Who Am I? No System Is Safe.

skjermbilde-2016-01-16-kl--11-36-25-e1452940687262-1396x602Louder Than Bombs– this is a new English language film from director Joachim Triers that is a study of a family copeing with the loss of their mother ;and the circumstances surrounding her life and death. I recently caught this film in Hamilton at the AGH I Love Film Series,and was impressed  by the film. I had seen Oslo,August 31 by the director and this film is a continuation of Trier’s short, but impressive ,catalogue of films. I came across a great review by Peter Debruge from Variety magazine so I thought I would share:

“Ever since Trier’s 2006 feature debut, “Reprise” (which landed him on Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” list), Hollywood has been courting the Norwegian helmer with offers to come and make a film in the States. Switching to English is no trouble for Trier, who studied at the U.K.’s National Film & Television School, although there remains something far more alien about the cinematic syntax and language he uses to express his ideas.

Strangely, “Louder Than Bombs” manages to be glaringly obvious and admirably subtle in the same breath. Consider the title, which, apart from being a reference to the Smiths’ classic compilation album, feels like false advertising for such a quiet film, which is carried along by Ola Flottum’s low, trancelike score, yet is set so far away from the front lines where Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert) is out trying to change the world. Your average picture may say a thousand words, but one of Reed’s, snapped in hot zones around the world and routinely landing on page one of the New York Times, is potentially powerful enough to have an almost nuclear effect.

Obviously, such a career can ruin a person, too, making it impossible to readjust to a society that’s not only too calm, but too far removed from the action to raise awareness, creating a domino effect where post-traumatic stress is concerned. Huppert barely appears in the film, haunting the edges like some sort of ghost, viewed slightly differently by everyone who remembered her — precisely the sort of formally intriguing challenge at which Trier excels, considering the way he shuffles chronology and perspective.

For Times colleague Richard Weissman (David Strathairn), Isabelle represents a fallen hero whose memory he seeks to honor by writing an in-depth column timed to coincide with a posthumous retrospective of her work — a story in which he intends to reveal that Isabelle’s death was almost certainly a suicide. For Isabelle’s husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), that deadline means having to re-examine his feelings toward his wife, as well as breaking the news to his sulky teenage son, Conrad (played by “Olive Kitteridge’s” promising Devin Druid). Meanwhile, older sibling Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg, once again typecast as the neurotic academic) seems more well adjusted at first, having just fathered an infant son, though he clearly has no shortage of issues to work through as well.

Frankly, the sight of these characters coping with Isabelle’s death isn’t nearly as rich or ambitious as another parallel theme that Trier and writing partner Eskil Vogt have opted to explore with the project: the issue of artistic ambition and how committing to a creative career (or abandoning it, as the case may be) shapes our lives and the relationships we maintain with loved ones. Isabelle put her work before her family, presumably using its political importance to justify the addiction she felt to the front lines. Gene, on the other hand, started his career as an actor, but put that aside at a certain point in order to focus on his wife and children, ultimately taking a non-glamorous job teaching at the local high school (where he’s struck up a covert affair with Conrad’s teacher, played by Amy Ryan).

Both of Trier’s previous features, “Reprise” and the suicide-centered “Oslo, August 31st,” concern themselves with tortured intellectuals who question their own existence, vacillating between whatever force drives them to create and the equally compelling impulse to self-destruct. Early on, the film identifies most strongly with Gene, but in time, it shifts to each of his sons before finally settling on Conrad. When we meet the kid, he seems awkward and angry, although in time, by replaying a series of events through the character’s perspective rather than his father’s, we see that he, too, has artistic talent, as a writer — a career for which Trier himself sometimes seems more suited. After all, behind the pic’s highly technical framing is a literary-minded helmer who appears to view screenwriting as an extension of the Nouveau Roman (or “new novel”) tradition, constantly bending the rules and toying with such elements as narrative continuity, structure and form in bold but always elegant ways.

In Trier’s hands, storytelling becomes a political act — not the sort that sees Isabelle’s reasons for repeatedly putting herself in harm’s way as being worthier than whatever domestic satisfaction she might take from staying home, but rather the kind that challenges the accepted modes of cinematic expression. One clue (falling on the more obvious side of things) presents itself when Conrad relays a lesson learned from his mother, who taught him how changing the framing of a photograph can completely change its meaning — which invites us to reflect on what Trier has cropped out of his own story, a contempo spin on James Agee’s “A Death in the Family,” complete with multiple re-enactments of the fatal crash and a dizzyingly modern found-footage montage.

As conceived, “Louder Than Bombs” remains a melodrama, but a curiously non-explosive one. The fuses appear to be burning on the inside here, as Trier focuses on the surviving Reeds’ almost tragic inability to connect. Conrad shuts down Gene’s every attempt at father-son communication, including a desperate workaround Gene attempts, going undercover in his son’s favorite role-playing game. At first, Johan has more encouraging words for Conrad, but then, in a horrifying conversation on the school bleachers, we realize just how scarred and cynical his older brother is. It’s as if all the trauma Isabelle took upon herself were passed on to her family, the battle scars she wears with pride internalized by those who spent every day afraid she might die in the field.

Those looking for a sexy in-the-trenches thriller would do better to track down “1,000 Times Good Night,” in which Michael Haneke’s other muse, Juliette Binoche, also plays a war photographer. Here, it hardly matters that Isabelle worked as a front-line shutterbug. That’s one of the few concrete details in a film that lacks much of the specificity that made Trier’s two previous films so fascinating — and the photos he attributes to her so arresting.

Film Review: ‘Louder Than Bombs’-Peter DeBruge-Variety Magazine
Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 17, 2015. Running time: 109 MIN.

Louder Than Bombs

Hitler_EDA__Lars Rudolph_Oliver Masucci_DSC4180_bearb

Look Who’s Back– (the German title is “Er Ist Wieder Da”) is  a new film available on Netflix here in Canada. It’s adapted from a bestselling satirical novel by German author Timur Vermes.

Th films premise is based on the fantastical scenario that Adolf Hitler materializes in modern day Berlin, 70 years after his death.A strange and off putting premise to base a comedy on I would say. Even if it is black humour. But what starts out as a Borat inspired fish out of water tale, develops into a more darker look at contemporary European politics, and the similarities between it and the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930’s.

Here is some text from a wonderful write -up of the film by Carol Hill for PRI and a link to the main article and an audio interview with the filmmaker: PRI Interview and Article

“The book is completely fiction. You read it and it’s just like an author’s imagination. I had this idea that if you turned it into a film you could try out the main hypothesis of the book. The book is about Hitler coming back and how people react to him and whether he would have another chance today. And using documentary film means I would be able to really test that, really see actually how people would react?”

Before shooting the dramatic film, Wnendt took the actor who plays Hitler all over Germany, dressed as Hitler and in character, to find out. The result is a mockumentary that makes you laugh and then it makes you feel uncomfortable that you’re laughing.

“I think it’s good and healthy to laugh about [Hitler],” says Wnendt. “But there’s a big difference whether you laugh about him as a person or whether you would belittle his crimes or if you laugh about the victims. That’s a big difference.

Wnendt believes it’s better for Germans to laugh about Hitler than to demonize him.

“It was just normal people who elected [the Nazis], normal people who followed orders, and normal people who could’ve stopped him. And that didn’t happen,” Wnendt says. “So the responsibility and also the historical fault is with the German people, with ordinary people.”

The plot of “Look Who’s Back” is simple, sort of. It’s today’s Germany and Hitler wakes up, still in uniform. He’s lying on the grass in Berlin, on the exact spot where his bunker was, the place he spent the final days of the Third Reich and where he committed suicide with Eva Braun in April 1945.

But it’s the digital age, so someone sees him and videotapes him. It goes viral. Eventually some ambitious and craven TV producers find out about him and turn him into a star.

This Hitler is less shouty than the real one (most of the time). He speaks in a more fatherly tone, but his fascist core comes through, if Germans would realize it. But they don’t, even when an elderly Jewish woman recognizes him as the real Hitler. Nonetheless, Hitler goes on to gain a huge following.

Oliver Masucci, the actor who plays Hitler, spent nearly a year traveling around Germany completely in character. He said it was a disturbing experience.

“The first thing they did was take selfies. I took about 25,0000 selfies. First [people] laughed and asked why I was dressed as Hitler,” Masucci said.

He explained that he was Hitler and told them he was shooting a movie so people could tell him what they really think about today’s Germany. “Then people started to talk to me. This was really awful.”

Masucci says Germans told him they thought democracy wasn’t working, that Germany needed another strongman, that refugees should be sent home and the unemployed should be put in labor camps.

Wnendt acknowledges that the Germans who spoke to “Hitler” knew that they were speaking to an actor dressed as him. But there was a depth to what they said that was chilling.

“They forgot about the camera and really took him seriously. When he gave them his ideas on immigration, they thought those ideas were great. No matter where we went, there were always people who really kind of fell for him. And that’s kind of sad in a way. It was good for the film, but it’s sad for our country.”

Hitler trying to learn how to use a computer and mouse Credit: Courtesy: Constantin Film
“Look Who’s Back” is unmistakeably funny. It makes you laugh out loud. You see the Hitler character trying to learn how to use a computer and mouse. He wants the username Adolf Hitler but it’s already taken.

In the film, the TV producers are ruthless in their careerism. And the only scene in which “Hitler” gets in trouble is when an online video turns up showing him shooting an annoying dog.

As a filmgoer, it’s refreshing to see a German satirical film. The Germans aren’t exactly known for their sense of humor. Then Wnendt reminds us why this is.

“Before Hitler came to power, the Jews in Germany were a huge part of the entertainment industry. Jewish humor has a long and strong tradition. Because of the Holocaust, we still, up to today, can still feel that loss of humor and creativity because of the Third Reich.”

And that’s exactly the raw nerve that “Look Who’s Back” succeeds in touching.”

check this out on Netflix if you want a conversation starter… :Look Who’s Back



CFMU– I have been hosting a soundtrack radio programme since the late 90’s at CFMU Radio in Hamilton and have recently decided to start to post the 2 hour podcasts on Soundcloud. Check out the link here: Soundtrack on CFMU Podcast

I hope to keep posting here on a more regular basis. A couple interesting things I am hoping to see at the TIFF Lightbox soon are the Norwegian thriller:Hevn, and Nicholas Winding Refn’s new movie: The Neon Demon


Later this summer I am planning on attending the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal in July and TIFF this September as well:)

Thanks for checking out the blog and feel free to send me comments or share!




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